Patriarch Kyrill of the Russian Orthodox Church observed recently that when Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple, only Simeon and Anna recognized and worshipped God. They were guided by the Holy Spirit, Saint Luke tells us in chapter 2. Many others were in the congregation then, doing rituals or having fellowship, but no one else welcomed and worshipped God. If you love my father you will love me, said Jesus. So let no one pretend that those who did not worship Jesus worshipped God, for the Bible says they did not. One verse says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Simeon and Anna were prayed up, in other words they were humble and open to God, so they met him and worshipped him. Do we?
Others meet God sometimes when they are far from him and not looking for him at all. Saint Paul was on the road to Damascus to persecute more Christians, when Jesus appeared to him and Paul was converted. I was far from God and definately not looking for him, when I visited a patient in a hospital where I worked as a social worker. Rev. John McReynolds was so holy the Holy Spirit filled that room and I was drawn back to follow Jesus, overwhelming my will. So sometimes, in his great mercy, God supernaturally draws those who have no interest in God. So the rest of us are naturally spiritual, right? No, when anyone is drawn to God, it is a force outside of ourselves. The Bible promises that there is no one who seeks God, no not one. Every single person who has ever loved God has first been drawn by him. God takes the initiative, or we are never inclined to seek or to follow God. Simeon, Anna, Saint Paul, you and I are all dead in our sins until we are awakened supernaturally. Then we are given the ability to respond and to say yes to Jesus.
It is a complete waste of time to preach and to witness to those who are spiritually dead, unless they are made alive by the Holy Spirit. All our efforts are in vain, in other words, unless God shows in our worship, or sermons, our songs, and our conversations. So is there anything we can do to promote Godliness if God is the one who takes the initiative? Yes, we can pray. God in his soverignity has taught that our Godly prayers will move him. James 5.16 the effectual fervent prayer of a righteousness man availeth much, or the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. God limits, to some extent, the good he does, based on whether our prayers are righteous on not. The dying Stephan prayed for his enemies who stoned him to death. One of those was Saul who later became known as Saint Paul. When we walk humbly with God our prayers will be directed by him to benefit particular individuals and groups of individuals. When I visited the home of the Dutch Christian Corrie Ten Book, the director and I prayed for the salvation of the Dutch people. God was there in our midst clearly. So far, no revival has taken place among the Dutch as far as I know. In fact Dutch society is far advanced above our own in godless influence and has powerful effect on our society. We can depressed about Dutch or American society, or we can be like Simeon and Anna. They did not moan and complain about how others around them were spiritually dead. No, they kept on walking with God, humbly and prayerfully, until God himself showed up to encourage them deeply.